2006 Real Football
| 2006 Real Football

The English are a proud nation, especially when it comes to football. We revel in a reputation for blood and guts commitment that has made the Premiership the most exciting league in the world.

When it comes to sheer technical ability however, we still have a lot to learn from our European cousins, and in particular the French. With mercurial talents such as Cantona, Henry and Zidane, they have come to rival even the mighty Brazil as proponents of 'the beautiful game'.

It should perhaps come as no surprise then to discover that the latest mobile football sim produced by Gallic game makers Gameloft is technically outstanding. Nevertheless, even after a week of on-and-off play, we remain somewhat stunned at the sheer depth of footballing features crammed into 2006 Real Football.

Sprints, one-twos, through-balls, crosses, flick-on headers, volleys, overhead kicks and curling shots are all on the menu here, allowing some real fantasy football to be served up. What's more, a wealth of club and International competitions (including Le Coup Du Monde itself), all packed with correctly named players and playable on three difficulty levels ensures its longevity.

The presentation is out of the top draw too, with nicely animated faux-3D players strutting their stuff against atmospherically crowded stadia, whilst the mixture of slow-mo replays and commentator remarks enhances the overall TV-style feel. In fact, aside from the slightly inconsistent audio, the game itself is virtually flawless.

Sadly, the same can probably not be said for your phone.

You see, whilst the control options on offer here may well be Champions League, the control device that most of us will use is a little more Vauxhall Conference, especially when it comes to complex movement. Any half-decent joypad will provide responsive movement, but only in four of the eight directions on offer (roll on eight-way input!), leaving you to either resort to the keypad (great if you can manage it – we can't) or improvise a pragmatic blend of pad and keys.

Likewise, the reluctance of most handsets to accept simultaneous button presses means that you'll have to physically lift your finger off one key (for example, the run button) in order to trigger a tackle, cross or shot.

The upshot of this is that for your first few games at least, the experience can feel a little like trying to get your local pub team to adopt Arsenal's flowing passing game. To be fair though, this is the same situation you'd face with just about any modern console title and the learning curve is far shallower here than in the likes of Pro Evolution Soccer.

Indeed, even ten minutes practise (via one-off games or the training mode) will result in considerable rewards. Invest a little more time and you'll soon be exploring the subtleties of the passing system, such as the ability to play quick one-time balls-to-feet or longer searching through passes. Likewise the process of shooting (which can seem a little baffling initially) will gradually become clearer. As you figure out how the power bars and direction indicators work, you'll be able to fire snap-shots and volleys at will, or pick your spot with a curler from the edge of the box.

You'll also increasingly notice the incidental details, like the way the colour of the tabs above team-mates change to indicate whether they are free, marked, or offside, and the 'confidence' bar that increases with your possession and flowing moves, enabling star players to pull off special moves.

Admittedly, Gameloft could still pick up a few pointers from the English game. Tackling can feel a little haphazard (the slide is tricky to pull off and never seems as effectual as a quick 'foot-in' jab) and though headers play an important role, there aren't any meaty challenges or enough goals from corners for our liking.

Neither these small niggles nor the initial control challenges can change the fact that we've fallen in love with Real Football 2006. Whether you'll feel the same depends upon exactly what you're looking for.

If you're after the odd five minutes of fun without having to pay attention, we'd suggest striking a mark off the score below and considering Playman World Soccer instead. If you want a more satisfying long term challenge, Real Football 2006 will provide some peerless soccer schooling for those who put the work in.

2006 Real Football

A master class in mobile football from the home of Henry, provided you're prepared to learn